Former athletes staying motivated

 In Coaches, Professional & Olympic Athletes

I was asked to write something on why high performing athletes struggle to stay motivated to workout after the height of their sport career. I am going to talk a bit about why athletes struggle to stay motivated and some ways they can re-motivate.

Being a semi or professional athlete can be physically & mentally challenging. Most athletes start participating in their sport at a very young age. Some athletes don’t start participating in their sport until they are older. Either way there’s still a lot of physically & mentally challenging training days, lots of traveling and competition. When they retire they are done; with everything. There’s a level of burnout and also an identity crisis. Who am I without sports? What do I do with my life now that my sports career has ended?

Here’s how this plays out:

  • I am so tired of training and working out. I’ve been doing it for so long. I don’t know if I’ll ever workout again.
  • But, I need to workout because that’s who I am
  • If I can’t train like I used to, then I don’t want to do it again
  • My only value is as an athlete
  • What will people think
  • What will people say

When you combine burnout and an identity crisis there’s a lot to deal with and it’s no wonder that athletes don’t continue to workout.On top of all the mental anguish, athletes do have to figure out what they are going to do next. Life changes. No one is designing your workout, telling you what to do and where to be, setting up your travel, etc. Your days are’t planned out and you now need to figure out how to earn a living doing something ‘else’ that you’re passionate about.

Honestly the best cure for this is systemic: athletes learning the importance of being proactive about burnout and identity and coaches understanding why this concept is important and doesn’t have to take away from an athletes ability to be great. I understand how important sport is, but how are you going to start preparing now for life after sports? I hate to say it but there will always be a life after sports.

But right now you are the retired athlete in this situation, how can you deal with it? First, it’s important to grieve. You are ending a huge part of your life. Second, get some support. It’s ideal to get help in dealing with the grief and the transition into an entirely new world. Third, take baby steps. Set daily, realistic goals and keep track of those goals. This will help you get to where you want to go next; even if that is just exploration. Fourth, have a routine. Routines help you know what your day is going to look like. Fifth, in that routine add a small amount of achievable activity. This is hard because you’ll want to do the type and amount of training you’ve always done but that’s not going to be possible. What can you do? That you like. That takes 20-45 minutes. That’ll fit into a daily routine. That you can do from home.

The transition from semi and professional athlete to retirement is HARD! If you decide to coach remember how hard it is and use that knowledge with your athletes.

Have a great week!

Dr. Michelle

PS I now have 4 bestsellers: Check them out!

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